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 Thought Leaders

The endless potential of RTLS

Asset management and real-time location systems save money, time and equipment.

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   By Brian Sutter, Wasp Barcode Technologies, July 2013

The importance of asset tracking in the medical industry is no foreign concept. As many facility administrators have discovered, the old method of manual tracking requires a significant amount of time and often results in costly errors. Accordingly, more administrators are turning to a technological approach.

Medical equipment is often owned and maintained by a variety of departments within a given healthcare facility. Because this equipment is shared, there is greater potential to lose, misplace or neglect these valuable assets. The result equates to an increased risk of overspending, since facility administrators aren’t fully aware whether they are getting the most out of every dollar. With the number of assets owned and used by a healthcare facility nearing the thousands, successfully managing assets has become increasingly complex. Many healthcare facilities have opted to implement asset-tracking software into their current computer program. Doing so saves money, time and even equipment.

Asset tracking makes short work out of tracking and managing assets. In order to make asset management as efficient as possible, barcode technology asset-tracking solutions – that come complete with barcode scanners, labelers and software programs – operate seamlessly with existing computer systems. Assets are captured in one central database and asset life cycles are immediately optimized with automated insight into critical asset variables, such as maintenance, utilization and service history. Items are managed collectively, providing greater operational insight that improves your ability to plan and execute operations.

Healthcare facilities may also utilize real-time location systems (RTLS) or radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. RTLS is used to identify and track the location of objects in real time. These objects receive fixed reference points – wireless tags that will broadcast signals received by antennae. Transmitted information will syndicate to a software program, facilitating real-time location of assets.

Radio frequency identification is the wireless non-contact use of radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer data for the purposes of automatically identifying and tracking tags attached to objects. These tags contain electronically stored information, which can be read from several meters away. RFIDs differ from barcodes in that the tag does not need to be in sight of the scanner.

While both methods can be helpful for locating assets, such as wheelchairs and patient beds, the more expensive and life-changing assets, such as imaging machines, crash carts, dialysis machines and defibrillators, require full tracking management.

After capturing asset equipment into a centralized database, you can begin managing critical asset variables, such as maintenance history, utilization and service records. Each time an operator interacts with an asset, barcodes capture and record the action. Since each item is scanned every time it’s used, a historical report offers instant access to valuable operating intelligence data. Each user is fully aware of asset data and can properly service the piece if needed. Doing so decreases the risk of using equipment that may fail, assists in equipment optimization and supplements regulatory compliance.

Asset management also factors into accounting operations. Monitoring the maintenance history of an asset provides facility administrators insight into the last time an item received service. This allows administrators to determine whether assets should be replaced or serviced based on the amount of time an asset has received maintenance and other financial outlays. If an administrator is aware of the other assets that require updates, as well as new asset procurements, the facility can better manage the money spent on new assets versus serviced items. Keeping track of the money spent on assets allows the facility to avoid wasting money on equipment that should be serviced rather than replaced, and helps the facility allot money for when an item does need to be replaced.

One such healthcare facility is Truxton Radiology Medical Group, the largest imaging practice in Bakersfield, Calif. Truxton Radiology Medical Group made the switch from a manual asset-tracking system to a barcode-based asset-tracking system. As a result, the organization has reduced its equipment audit time from two to three days to a half-day procedure, leaving more time for employees to focus on quality patient care. Moreover, the facility virtually eliminated wasteful spending and decreased its compliance reporting burden.

Healthcare providers, such as Truxton Radiology Medical Group, chose to implement asset-tracking technology into their internal processes to reduce error and increase effective management practices. Consider integrating an asset-management solution, since asset tracking enhances the efficiency of managing equipment maintenance, resulting in increased equipment optimization and decreased equipment repair costs. Thanks to Wasp’s MobileAsset tracking solution, Truxton Radiology Medical Group found a single, economical source for optimal healthcare asset management.

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